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Isadora Wing is a Jewish journalist from New York City’s Upper West Side. We meet her on a plane flight to Vienna for the first psychoanalyst’s conference since analysts were driven out during the Holocaust. She is surrounded by analysts, many of them her own from over the years, and her husband Bennett (also an analyst, naturally): “There were 117 psychoanalysts on the Pan Am flight to Vienna and I’d been treated by at least six of them” Her fear of flying, both literally and metaphorically referring to a fear of freeing herself from the shackles of traditional male companionship, she associates with recent articles about plane hijackings and terrorist attacks. She also associates fear and loathing with Germany, her destination, because she and her husband were stationed in Heidelberg and she struggled both to fit in and to wrestle with the hatred and anger she felt being a Jew in post-Holocaust Germany
Freudians perhaps inevitably have their own ideas about the symbolism of an airplane in the formation of the unconscious and the sexual psyche, and this contrast provides narrative suspense. What did the six psychiatrists make of the narrator’s fears? Did she tell them? What will they say in Vienna if she mentions her nervous emotions? These questions are not really explicitly stated, but they may well occur to a reader’s mind. The narrator, meanwhile, occupies her mind with many questions, plans, mental rough drafts and reminiscences as her journey unfolds, including the “zipless fuck,” a major motif in the story that haunts the narrator throughout.
Upon arriving, Isadora meets English Langian analyst Adrian Goodlove. She is immediately hooked. Despite his gruff attitude and dirty sandals, he seems to provide what she desires but doesn’t find in her own marriage – energy, excitement, desire, danger. They begin a poorly-veiled secret affair, dancing and kissing rather openly at conference events, staying out nights, spending days by German pools. Adrian is wild and awakens things in Isadora she believed to be lost in the everydayness of her marriage, despite the fact that he is a rotten lay and often impotent.
“I refuse to be impaled on a pin,” Adrian said, unaware of the pun it immediately brought to mind. “I refuse to be categorized. When you finally do sit down to write about me, you won’t know whether I’m a hero or an antihero, a bastard or a saint. You won’t be able to categorize me.” And at that moment, I fell madly in love with him. His limp prick had penetrated where a stiff one would never have reached.
But Isadora’s desperation to feel alive and her developing feelings for Adrian lead her to the toughest decision: to return home with Bennett or to go to London with Adrian. She agonizes over this decision. One night, Bennett finds Adrian and Isadora in bed together and joins them, in an adventurous sexual act that Bennett never acknowledges afterward.
Finally, through an emotionally taxing and melodramatic letter that she never delivers to Bennett because he once again walks in and interrupts her, Isadora decides to leave with Adrian. The two of them drive through France, Germany, and Italy, camping every night, drinking, and making love. Along the way, Isadora confides in Adrian the stories of her past relationships and first marriage. She reveals that she met her first husband, Brian, in college, where they connected over their mutual love of literature and ability to walk for hours while quoting poetry. This ended when they married, and became a “bourgeois” couple, not seeing each other, not having sex, disconnecting. Brian, a certified genius, begins to fall into delusions, believing himself to be the second coming of Christ. He becomes violent, raping Isadora and choking her close to death in one mental break. He is repeatedly hospitalized and eventually moved to a facility in Los Angeles where Brian blames her for everything and they finally divorce.
Eventually, she decides to return home to Bennett. On a train journey to meet him in London, she is approached by an attendant who sexually assaults her, which propels her into her own psychological self-examination.
It wasn’t until I was settled, facing a nice little family group – mother, daddy, baby – that it dawned on me how funny that episode had been. My zipless fuck! My stranger on a train! Here I’d been offered my very own fantasy. The fantasy that had riveted me to the vibrating seat of the train for three years in Heidelberg and instead of turning me on, it had revolted me! Puzzling wasn’t it. A tribute to the mysteriousness of the psyche. Or maybe my psyche had begun to change in a way I hadn’t anticipated. There was no longer anything romantic about strangers on trains.
She realizes that when she is not in control of her body, when she doesn’t have agency or autonomy, that it doesn’t matter how much she’s dreamed of a situation, it will never be satisfying. When she returns home, she takes a bath, waits for Bennett, and comes to accept her body, herself, and the unknown future: “A nice body. Mine. I decided to keep it” (p 424).
Summary Fear of Flying
The novel remains a feminist classic and the phrase “zipless fuck” has seen a resurgence in popularity as third-wave feminism authors and theorists continue to use it while reinterpreting their approach to sexuality and to femininity. John Updike’s New Yorker review is still a helpful starting point for curious onlookers. He commented, “A sexual frankness that belongs to, and hilariously extends the tradition of The Catcher in the Rye and Portnoy’s Complaint.”
Details Fear of Flying
Author: Erica Jong
Cover artist: Judith Seifer
Country : United States
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston
File formate: pdf
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